When you read the words below, what thoughts go through your head? What do you picture? How would you describe them with other words?
community, small group, church, body, family, ministry, unity, fellowship, God, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, pastor, elder, member
How a person answers those questions for those words matters. BIG TIME.
Within a mechanical order environment, those words are noun-centric. This means that when we use them, we are thinking of them as objects.
The sentences we use to talk about them use them as nouns. For example…
- I went to church today.
- I’m a member of so-and-so church.
- Pastor Bob shared a sermon with us today.
- I love attending my small group on Tuesdays.
All of these sentences sound normal and familiar to us.
Organic order is verb-centric
In an organic order environment, the foundational words we use to describe life and activity are verb-centric. This means that when we use them, we are primarily thinking of relational activity.
The sentences we use to talk about them use them as verbs. For example…
- We had church today.
- I was busy churching, so I was late to the party.
- Bob pastored Bill through a crisis.
- The more I’ve been small grouping, the closer I’ve felt to the Lord.
Do these sentences feel weirder to you? They do, don’t they?!? They do to me.
That’s because you and I grew up in a noun-centric culture dominated by mechanical order environments.
Really, it should be the other way around.
How we use language matters
If our lives were ordered by relational activity, the first set of sentences would feel weirder to us than the second.
The point is that how we use and understand our language matters.
Listen to how Joseph Myers describes this in his book Organic Community: Creating A Place Where People Naturally Connect…
To maximize only the noun and minimize the verb leads us to develop static and absolute structures, structures that might promise help and health, yet provide a sterile and unhelpful understanding of what life is really about. God describes himself with the verb “I am.” The Trinity is not three objects. The Trinity is a dance of three verbs. Three “I ams.”
Language not only expresses social structures. Language also shapes worldview. Language shapes the way we behave and believe. Do you view community, belonging, and small groups as nouns or verbs? Whether you view these as noun or verb will affect your language, your processes, your structures, and yes, even your outcomes.
Things with life are dynamic
Let’s take the word “leader” as an example. When used as a noun, it’s something that is static. You are labeled either a leader or not a leader.
You are put on a special team or not on a special team. You are given a position or not given a position. You may even qualify for a salary or no salary.
It’s something you can develop into and once you are one, you are typically one indefinitely unless something drastic happens where you disqualify yourself from the label.
When used as a verb, it’s something dynamic. In any given moment, you are leading or you are not leading. Everyone has the capacity at any time to be leading or not leading.
If you are not leading at a given moment, then people don’t follow you. If someone else is leading, they get followed.
If a team is formed, it’s fluid and temporary and based on your competence to do something. When the project ends, the team disbands and new teams are formed that better fit the new projects that have emerged to support the mission.
If financial support is needed to accomplish the project, support may be granted until the project is completed. Nothing is static. Nothing is indefinite.
Applying what Myers said, do you see how using the word “leader” as a noun leads to “static and absolute structures” that shape the way we behave and believe?
Relationships are an environment
When Life through relationships is what is ordering a church’s life together, things are constantly moving, changing and growing. What was healthy in one season is not healthy in the next. Where God’s power is working today is not where God’s power is working tomorrow.
When we lock things into place, we squeeze the Life out of the community.
Being organic means relational activity is what order emerges from; not objectified organizational structures, processes and programs.
It means we’re verb-centric because we see that living relationships are the environment in which we use all of our language to describe what’s happening and what we hope for.
Doing this shifts our perspective on how we should be functioning together; and in turn, the health of our life together.
The rest of the posts in the What It Means To Be Organic series are here.